Shedia street paper vendor paints a better future in Greece

Stathis Papanastasiou, known affectionately as Mr Stathis, is a vendor for the Greek street paper Shedia in Athens. A man of many talents, he recently brought the street paper a rather lovely present.

Drawn by hand, the picture was gifted to the team at Shedia by Stathis. ‘Kick off poverty’ reads the street paper featured in the self-portrait. Stathis has drawn himself walking on a ‘Social Dignified Action’ path, a nod towards what Shedia has given him.

Vendor Stathis' hand drawn present for the staff at the Shedia office

Shedia employs Stathis for more than selling the paper: he is part of their ‘social subscription’ programme.

Inspired by The Big Issue Australia’s celebrated woman’s programme, the paper allows customers to order a subscription to the street paper. These are then managed by a group of vendors – enabling the street paper to support elderly men with a stable income.

Stathis, who is in his late sixties, is one of the first recipients of this programme. He spends a few hours each month, in the security and warmth of the Shedia office with a cup of tea next to him, to prepare the new issue before it is posted out to subscribers.

Vendor Network Manager George Arapoglou recalled Stathis’ initial worries about his involvement in the programme.

“At first he was hesitant. He wasn’t sure at all that he actually wanted to participate in this programme. He was afraid of losing the sense of the streets and the contact with the people, which he really needs – as we all do. But we reassured him that he could do both. And that’s how he accepted to do it.”

“I feel upgraded as a person”

When he is not drawing beautiful pictures for the Shedia team, Stathis can be found selling the street paper in Athens. Spending almost every day in the city streets, he stands in his spot with dignity as he tries to obtain a small income to cover his basic needs.

He explained what the programme and Shedia means to him. “It was for me a good opportunity to do something new. I feel upgraded as a person. I am doing something useful for me and for the street paper.

“It is a nice effort so that even more people get to know about it. At first I thought that I would be off the streets and I was a bit worried. While in the streets, selling the magazine, I feel I found myself again. And I didn’t want to lose it. It is part of my everyday fight.”

Having rediscovered himself, Mr Stathis brings a positive attitude to his work: “There is no point thinking about bad things. I want to leave them behind me and look forward with optimism. At Shedia we have great cooperation.”